Ask Matt: More ‘Moodys?’ Too ‘Evil?’ The CW Crossover, Hallmark Movies & More
Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape.
One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it’s already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
In the Mood for More Moodys
Question: I’ve just finished watching the final episode on Fox of The Moodys Christmas limited series with Denis Leary. That thing is a REAL HOOT! Funniest sitcom I’ve seen in a long time. Is there ANY chance that show will be picked up and continue with the same format, same actors —by any cable company? The actors are ALL just great. Denis is always good, in anything he’s ever done, his facial expressions are priceless. The storyline was delightful. — Virginia
Matt Roush: Happy to start off my final Ask Matt column for the year on a positive note. (You’ll see the exact opposite a little further on.) Glad you enjoyed The Moodys, even though that TV family didn’t seem to be enjoying their holiday much throughout the six episodes. There is a remote possibility you could see the family again in another limited format, built around another family gathering at a different holiday time. (A Moodys Easter or Fourth of July?) But it seems a long shot, because the limited-series format was always something of a risk for Fox, and neither the reviews nor the ratings made this look much like a hit franchise. Part of the problem was that this seemed to have come out of nowhere and didn’t fit in with any of Fox’s regular programming, and double-running episodes on three nights (not all of them consecutive) presented another scheduling hurdle. If Fox does order more — I can’t imagine anyone else stepping up, though these days you never know — we’ll be sure and report it.
Has Evil Become Too Evil?
Question: I am really enjoying CBS’s Evil but am wondering if they took a big step backwards in showing Michael Emerson‘s evil psychologist attempt to fashion a woman killer with the obviously socially backward boy. This seems like something that would be polarizing in these gun-sensitive times. Thankfully, it actually took a humorous turn when he accidentally shot himself — but being that the psychologist employs an array of gun-happy security guards, I fear for the future. What are your thoughts?? — JV
Matt Roush: You’re meant to fear for whatever it is that Leland Townsend (the Michael Emerson character) is up to, and while there’s obviously a supernatural component to many of Evil‘s mysteries, the series is equally concerned with the real-world threat of influencing evil through means of social media and the kinds of psychological manipulation Leland specializes in. That particular storyline of Leland molding a potential serial killer/mass shooter (until it backfired) is without doubt pushing some unsettling buttons, but would you expect anything different from a show called Evil?
The Crossover of Our Dreams
Question: Is it just me, or does anyone else wish the Winchester brothers from Supernatural were included in this year’s crossover event on The CW? Though I was excited about Black Lightning joining the team and Batwoman having a larger role, Sam and Dean have saved the world enough times, why not the Multiverse? Especially with it being Stephen Amell’s (Arrow) AND Supernatural’s final season. I can’t imagine it will end much better for Dean and Sam than it did for Oliver, though a part of me really hopes it does. C’mon, they are fighting THE God, not a cosmic being that Chuck could just “write” out of existence. Oh, and with all the talk of a Buffy reboot/revival over the years, how cool would it be for her, and maybe even Willow, to show up in Part 4?!? Now that would make all my Christmas wishes come true! — Jennifer W
Matt Roush: We can always dream, that’s the fun part of being a TV fan. Thanks for sharing.
A Cornucopia of Holiday TV Gripes
Question: Grumbling about TV during the holidays: Clash of the Network Egos: Whose brilliant idea was it to schedule the live (okay, semi-live) Survivor finale against the truly live All in the Family and Good Times broadcast? Grumble: The series finale of Madam Secretary began at 10:45 pm/ET! I wanna sleep! Thanks, CBS. You so (dis)respected the show in its final appearance. Won’t be surprised if Téa Leoni hightails it to cable or Netflix. Grumble: The CW’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover is a fun watch, but the almost constant, overly dramatic, and overly loud background music made it hard to hear much of the dialogue. Please correct before you return. Grumble: Golden Globes nominations: not one network show. Time to create an awards show just for network TV. Call it the Lucy Awards. Grumble: I enjoy watching classic holiday shows like A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph, but really? Repeats of the repeats? Create new animated holiday specials — and not just to promote toys or movies. Grumble: Pretty clever (or was it arrogant) of the Disney-owned ABC network to incessantly hide promotions for Disney+ in its talk shows, news broadcasts and specials. I no longer trust reviews of anything Disney that appear on ABC. Grumble: I like ABC’s Emergence, but it’s making the same mistake as Manifest, piling mystery atop of mystery, without answers, and leaving us hanging over the mid-season break. No wonder so many people prefer streaming services that drop whole seasons all at once. (Note to showrunners of said mystery shows; go rewatch Fringe for a template on how to do it right.) Grumble: So tired of reading online reviews of new TV shows and movies, and then learning it’s being broadcast on a streaming service. How about putting that information upfront before the review, so people who can’t afford cable or streaming don’t get blindsided. Grumble: Oh well, made it through another decade, and looking back on the past 10 years, and all the tech innovations that have impacted (for better or worse) the way we watch TV, makes me wonder what’s ahead. Won’t be predictable, and will probably be expensive. Grumble, Grumble. Happy holidays, Matt! — The Grinch (aka Maurice)
Matt Roush: My Christmas gift to you is letting you get all of this off your chest. Many of these I’ve heard before: The CBS overruns on Sunday, the loud music on so many TV shows, the lack of network-TV representation in awards shows (though the Globes took it to a new level), inescapable Disney synergy, etc. I don’t know who’s hiding the network/streaming service info in reviews, but you’re going to have to get used to reading reviews of shows on platforms that are new to you and to which you may have no interest in subscribing. It’s a fact of TV life.
On two other points: It is unfortunate that two major events are airing opposite each other on Wednesday when there’s so little else going on, and I guess I’m a bit annoyed that in a week when I’m dealing with travel preparations and dinners with friends and the like, ABC is presenting such a big special that I may not even have time to watch live. (I wasn’t that keen on the All in the Family recreation the first time around — Woody Harrelson seems so miscast as Archie — but I do want to see that Good Times cast.) And regarding Emergence: This seems a much less convoluted show than Manifest, and the characters are so much more appealing, and appealingly played. I don’t know what to make of the last twist in the cliffhanger, in which it seems that Benny (Owain Yeoman) is yet another AI as he and Helen (Rowena King) take Piper (Alexa Swinton) from the Evans family. But at least I understand the stakes in Emergence, unlike whatever’s going on in Manifest.
Hallmark and a Christmas Obsession
Question: In regards to recent columns mentioning Hallmark movies, I wanted to take a minute and ask why Hallmark seems to get credit for inventing the Christmas movie genre, and seems more popular now. When in reality it was Lifetime who really started this trend, nearly two decades ago. Lifetime has been airing Christmas movies since at least the mid-1990s and was for a time hugely popular for it. Why do you think everybody now turns to Hallmark instead of Lifetime when both air a steady stream of Christmas movies? Speaking of Hallmark, why do they rely so heavily on their Christmas movies (even year-round) at the expense of their classic Hallmark Hall of Fame movies and mini-series. They could easily turn themselves into a prestige brand if they re-aired classic Hallmark Hall of Fame movies like Sarah, Plain & Tall or April Morning or rebooted some of these classic titles. Instead they rely on cheap, saccharin fare. What are your thoughts? — MJ
Matt Roush: Hallmark and Lifetime can probably share the holiday audience just fine, and both outlets (among others) tend to be featured in any holiday-movie roundup. But in terms of marketing, Hallmark lets volume speak for itself, and its relentless focus on Christmas movies (even year-round) is why it gets most of the publicity. (Sometimes negatively, if you paid attention to the recent flap over Hallmark pulling ads featuring two brides at the altar, then reneging after a backlash over the perceived discrimination.) Keep in mind as well that Lifetime has many other aspects to its brand, while Hallmark as a company is much more narrowly focused on seasonal schmaltz. And to your second point, I can’t remember the last time a movie listed as Hallmark Hall of Fame was worthy of that banner. I remember when that distinction was given to truly special movies, often adaptations of classics or contemporary literary works by the likes of Anne Tyler. That brand has diminished in the last two decades to the point that it actually saddens me when I see something listed as “Hall of Fame” when it’s so clearly not.
Question: Why do the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries program their new Christmas movies across from one another? This season they wisely started showing the Christmas movies on HM&M on Thursday and Friday nights, and the Hallmark Channel movies on Saturday and Sunday nights. And they advertised them that way. Then, abruptly in mid-November, they changed the schedules and began showing HM&M programs at 9 pm/ET on Saturdays and Sundays while the Hallmark channel ones run at 8 pm/ET the same nights. I realize that all these movies are constantly repeated during the season, but aren’t they competing against themselves for viewers? If they insist on programing on the same nights, they should at least show the Hallmark movies from 8 to 10 and the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries from 10 to midnight. — Sara
Matt Roush: The volume is so intense there’s almost no way for Hallmark not to cannibalize itself. But I would suggest (not to patronize the target audience and suggest they can’t stay up late) that they should start the movies earlier, one at 7/6c and the one on the other channel at 9/8c. No overlap, and you’re still off to dreamland at 11/10c. (If you’re not able to record one while the other is on, my advice is to watch the first movie to completion, than dip into the second movie at midpoint. It’s not like it would be that hard to catch up to the story, since they’re pretty much all the same.)
A Day in the Life
Question: Long-time fan, first time submitter. I was wondering what a typical day of work looks like for you? With so many shows on (including a constant barrage of streaming, broadcast and cable shows), how many episodes are you able to watch in a typical day (and how many hours a day of TV is that)? Do you watch shows sped up from a normal speed to fit more in? What kinds of things do you do while you are watching (exercise, browse the web, pay bills, etc.), or do you concentrate on what you are watching (I can’t multitask while watching TV, although I know many people can)? How much of your time is spent watching stuff you like vs. what you have to watch for review purposes? How many shows are on your current “must see every episode” list? How much of your time is spent writing the various columns for tvinsider.com & TV Guide Magazine? I have very much enjoyed your contributions to tvinsider.com (and predecessors) over the years. I appreciate your perspective. I don’t always agree with your reviews, but generally when you say something is a stinker I agree. As someone who enjoys TV but usually can’t watch more than two hours at a sitting — shows tend to build up on my DVR and I don’t tend to binge-watch — I am impressed by your stamina to be able to keep up with so many shows on behalf of us, the readers. Keep up the good work! — Robert F, Sacramento, CA
Matt Roush: This seems a perfect question with which to end my last Ask Matt column for 2019. The answer, of course, being there’s no typical day. All are different, depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. Some days are all about writing (such as this day, when I’ll be turning around an Ask Matt column, one of my daily “Worth Watching” overviews, something for the TV Insider newsletter, and even getting the next column for TV Guide Magazine started), while some days are all about watching. My current playlist for the next review column includes an eight-part Masterpiece series, a 10-part Netflix series, a few episodes of a new cable show and one two-hour documentary. If I’m watching one of those as a binge, that can occupy an entire day, with time for little else. Although most days involve some writing and some watching. There’s almost no day when I’m not trying to burn off an episode of something.
As I work my way through my assignments for future reviews, I also try to find time to watch weekly episodes of the handful of shows I try to keep up with (thankfully, most of those are in rerun mode right now). There are still shows I wouldn’t miss for anything; I won’t list all of them for you here, because it’s pretty obvious which shows I feature regularly in the daily roundup column. (This season alone, I’ve added Prodigal Son, Emergence, Stumptown, The Unicorn and Evil to my weekly playlist, and I have a soft spot for Perfect Harmony as well. The Good Doctor, The Conners, This Is Us, Survivor, Grey’s Anatomy and A Million Little Things are shows I also try to keep up with, while sampling the more traditional procedurals every so often depending on the storyline. Plus there are cable series and miniseries that capture my attention, although often those are available to watch in advance.) When watching just about anything, I do try to watch without distraction, taking notes as I go to remind myself of what I’ve just seen. (The volume is overwhelming, and the mind is cluttered.) TV is work; if I’m doing something like paying bills, laundry, exercise, that’s when music or reading or scrolling through the news come in handy.) This probably doesn’t address all of your questions, but the real challenge of the job is staying engaged amid the glut of content and not burning out. It’s also a challenge to try to pick the right shows to watch at any given moment, because it’s impossible even to sample them all, let along binge-watch full seasons. It’s almost like being a book critic anymore, tackling entire seasons at a sitting.
Not complaining, mind you. The only thing I enjoy more than discovering a new favorite TV show, or reconnecting with an old favorite — digging into new seasons of The Crown and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel were special joys in recent weeks — is hearing from readers and viewers with their reactions, both positive and negative. Doing the Ask Matt column keeps me honest, and I couldn’t imagine doing this job without it.
With all of this in mind, that’s all for now, and until after New Year’s. Thanks as always for reading, and for all of your provocative questions this year. Remember that I can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. Please include a first name with your question. Merry holidays and Happy 2020 to all!